Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Literary Warrant [14]

don't worry about nature: it is always nature:

when we divert water into California's valley
deserts, we produce mucho melons, but we

leave the salty mouth of the Colorado dry: we
play our arrogances small scale: slowly we

learn that surplus carbon monoxide feeds a soil
microorganism: the large designs are filigrees

through which nearly still measures move, turn, split,
come and go again.

—From "Surface Effects," in A.R. Ammons, Bosh and Flapdoodle: Poems 18-20 (New York: Norton, 2005)
  • Jay Austin & Bruce Myers, Senior Attorneys, Environmental Law Institute (ELI), Anchoring the Clean Water Act: Congress's Constitutional Sources of Power To Protect the Nation's Waters (An Environmental Law Institute White Paper) (July 2007)

    "Supreme Court rulings handed down in 2001 (SWANCC) and 2006 (Rapanos) have cast doubt on the scope of coverage that Congress intended when it enacted the Clean Water Act. Despite these rulings, any restrictions that the Court has imposed on the Act derive from the Court's own interpretation of Congressional intent in 1972, when Congress used the terms 'navigable waters' and 'waters of the United States' to characterize federal jurisdiction under the Act. Neither Supreme Court case reaches, much less decides, the underlying constitutional question: what is the scope of Congress’s constitutional authority to protect the Nation's waters?

    "As a result, Congress remains free to convey, through a 'clear statement,' the scope it intends (and originally intended) for the Clean Water Act. An amendment recently introduced in the House of Representatives would restate and clarify Congress's intent to regulate the waters of the United States to the fullest extent of its legislative power. But if Congress amends the Act in this manner, which constitutional powers could it rely on, and what has the Supreme Court said about these powers? This white paper is offered to help inform the debate on this fundamental question."—Executive Summary.

  • beSpacific, DOT Withholds Documents on Greenhouse Gas Emmissions from Oversight Committee (July 2, 2007)

    "In response to Rep. Waxman's request, the Department of Transportation provided limited documents and e-mails related to its lobbying of Members of Congress to oppose efforts by California and other states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. In the correspondence providing the documents, DOT states that it intends to withhold 53 responsive documents from the Committee."—Press release (June 29, 2007)

  • Christopher Cherry, Jonathan Weinert & Chaktan Ma, The Environmental Impacts of Electric Bikes in Chinese Cities (Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley Center for Future Urban Transport: A Volvo Center of Excellence, vwp-2007-2) (2007)

    "Electric bikes have captured a large share of trips in many Chinese cities. They provide high levels of mobility and use little energy, two things that Chinese cities need to optimize. However, these benefits come at a cost, particularly emissions from primarily coal power plants and increased lead waste from battery use. Chinese policy makers are struggling with developing appropriate policy that maximizes modal options and mobility and minimizes environmental impacts. Electric bikes use very little electricity and, as a result, emit low levels of pollution per vehicle (passenger) kilometer traveled, even compared to fully occupied buses. The most problematic issue with electric bikes is the use of lead acid batteries that have high lead loss rates during the production, manufacturing and recycling processes. Most other motorized modes also use lead acid batteries, but their rate of use is lower and thus they have lower lead emission rates per kilometer. This research investigates and quantifies the environmental implications of electric bike use in China; particularly energy use, air pollution, solid waste and water use. A framework for policy analysis is presented and potential regulatory mechanisms are discussed. This investigation can inform policy by quantifying environmental impacts so that problematic parts of the life cycle can be addressed, rather than banning electric bikes all together."—Abstract.

  • Charles D. Ferguson, Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations, Nuclear Energy: Balancing Benefits and Risks (April 2007)

    "Dr. Ferguson argues that nuclear energy, despite its attributes, is unlikely to play a major role in the coming decades in strengthening energy security or in countering the harmful effects of climate change. In particular, the rapid rate of nuclear reactor expansion required to make even a modest reduction in global warming would drive up construction costs and create shortages in building materials, trained personnel, and safety controls. There are also lingering questions over nuclear waste, as well as continued political opposition to siting new plants. Nonetheless, the report points out steps the United States could take—such as imposing a fee on greenhouse gas emissions—to level the economic playing field for all energy sectors, which over the long run would encourage the construction of new nuclear reactors (if only to replace existing ones that will need to be retired) and help reduce global warming."—Overview.

  • Eileen R. Larence, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Critical Infrastructure Protection: Sector Plans and Sector Councils Continue to Evolve (July 10, 2007)

    "Our nation's critical infrastructures and key resources—including those cyber and physical assets essential to national security, national economic security, and national public health and safety—continue to be vulnerable to a wide variety of threats. Because the private sector owns approximately 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure and key resources—banking and financial institutions, telecommunications networks, and energy production and transmission facilities, among others—it is vital that the public and private sectors form effective partnerships to successfully protect these assets....

    "This report discusses (1) the extent to which the sector-specific plans meet NIPP [National Infrastructure Protection Plan] and DHS requirements, (2) the government and sector coordinating council members' views on the value of the plans and DHS's review process, and (3) the key success factors and challenges that sector representatives reported they encountered in establishing and maintaining their councils."

  • New Economics Foundation (nef) & the NHS Confederation, Taking the Temperature: Towards an NHS Response to Global Warming (2007)

    "A new report from nef for the NHS confederation says that the NHS, as one of the world’s biggest and most resource-hungry public sector institutions, must brace itself for the health impacts of global warming and act urgently to reduce its significant carbon emissions.

    "Taking the temperature: towards an NHS response to global warming says that the NHS faces a dual challenge. As well as taking action to reduce its own carbon emissions, as the lead agency responsible for public health, it needs to invest in preventive healthcare to strengthen the resilience of the population, as well as in treatment for the victims of a warmer, more variable climate."—Press release (June 22, 2007)

  • Damilola Sunday Olawuyi, University of Calgary, The Emergence of International Environmental Law on Chemicals—An Appraisal of the Role of Soft Law

    "Since 1988 when the world first witnessed the menacing effects of the large scale dumping of toxic wastes in developing countries, several treaties, protocols and declarations have been released at regional and international levels to combat the effects of chemicals and their disposal across borders. This has led to a phenomenal growth in the body of laws governing the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous chemicals. The important role of soft law in this evolution cannot be sidelined. This paper shows that soft law, though largely made up non binding declarations and pronouncements served as a useful tool, in establishing standards of behavior, in promoting sustainable policies and laying the proper foundation that ultimately led to the adoption different environmental treaties like the Basel Convention, Bamako Conventions, The Rotterdam (PIC) Convention and Stockholm (POPs) Convention amongst others. This paper offers an historical analysis of the international events that led to the development of International Environmental Law as it pertains to chemicals and the important roles of soft law in the evolution of these treaties and protocols."—Abstract.

  • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), OSHA Ordered to Release Toxic Exposure Database: More than 25 Years of Workplace Sampling Yields Public Health Research Bonanza (Press release) (July 2, 2007)

    "The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has wrongfully withheld data documenting years of toxic exposures to workers and its own inspectors, according to a federal court ruling posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the world's largest compendium of measurements of occupational exposures to toxic substances—more than 2 million analyses conducted during some 75,000 OSHA workplace inspections since 1979—should now be available to researchers and policymakers. Each year, an estimated 40,000 U.S. workers die prematurely because of exposures to toxic substances on the job."

  • Joaquin Sapien, Superfund Today: Massive Undertaking to Clean Up Hazardous Waste Sites Has Lost Both Momentum and Funding (April 26, 2007)

    "Communities across America face a daunting threat from hazardous waste sites—some near neighborhoods and schools—27 years after the federal government launched the landmark Superfund program to wipe out the problem, a Center for Public Integrity investigation has found." See also the project site, Wasting Away: Superfund's Toxic Legacy.

  • The World Bank, Making the Most of Scarcity: Accountability for Better Water Management Results in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA Development Report) (2007)

    "Even the most casual observer of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region knows the countries are short of water.1 Despite its diversity of landscapes and climates—from the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains to the empty quarter of the Arabian peninsula—most of the region's countries cannot meet current water demand. Indeed, many face full-blown crises. And the situation is likely to get worse. Per capita water availability will fall by half by 2050, with serious consequences for the region's already stressed aquifers and natural hydrological systems. As the region's economies and population structures change over the next few decades, demands for water supply and irrigation services will change accordingly, as will the need to address industrial and urban pollution. Some 60 percent of the region’s water flows across international borders, further complicating the resource management challenge. Finally, rainfall patterns are predicted to shift as a result of climate change."—Overview.

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